When President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) addressed a joint session of the National Assembly to present the 2019 Appropriation Bill, he was interrupted intermittently. Lawmakers either booed or cheered according to Party affiliation. As he mentioned some of the supposed achievements of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration lawmakers from the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) made such an uproar thethat PMB had to tell them to maintain decorum because “the world is watching us and we are supposed to be above this”.
Kingsley Chinda, a member of the House of Representatives (Rivers PDP) said that the reason they booed was because of the “insincerity of the Presidency during the implementation of previous budgets”. Chinda claimed that the protest was not planned, but was spontaneous because the Presidency hasn’t been fair to Nigerians when it comes to capital releases where they have performed poorly. There is no doubt that one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is that the law called the Appropriation Act (Budget) is never followed to the letter. In 2018 Legislative oversight functions revealed that some government agencies received only 8% of their budgetary allocation. Be that as it may, Chinda must accept that open jeering and booing of leaders belongs to parliamentary democracy where issues are debated on the floor of the house. It’s not part of Presidential democracy.
The rowdy atmosphere caused the occasion to end abruptly without speeches from the Presiding Officers of the Senate and House of Representatives. Subsequently the Senate President Bukola Saraki has described the 2019 Budget as “hopeless and deceptive”. This may be harsh but, it’s certainly disappointing that not much attention seems to have been paid to the budgetary allocations for the Presidency. One of the more memorable statements PMB made during the 2019 budget presentation was that; “We have made many efforts to enhance transparency and accountability in public service delivery.” Unfortunately, this flies in the face of reality. While he personally is renowned for his frugal lifestyle, and therefore has the moral right to ask Nigerians to tighten their belts for hard times ahead, officials within the Presidency appear not so inclined to make any “sacrifice” in their lavish lifestyles.
As usual some very puzzling allocations which defy logic and common sense are contained within the 2019 budget. When examined in detail, it shows that the Executive have no moral right to criticize the Legislature for profligacy. The Presidency budgeted N800 million for “mandatory upgrade and installation of live TV on one of the Presidential jets, as well as other upgrades worth N700 million on the presidential air fleet. Nigerians don’t need to be reminded that in 2014, PMB promised to decommission the presidential fleet. Other allocations to the Presidency are simply ludicrous in a nation plagued by poverty and in which citizens are asked to make sacrifices. For example, N4.3 Billion has been budgeted for “annual maintenance of mechanical/electrical installations in Aso Villa”.
Over N600 million has been budgeted for “phased replacement of vehicles, spares and tires”. In addition, another N53 million is budgeted for “purchase of tires”. All this notwithstanding N456 million which has been budgeted for acquiring security and operational vehicles by the Office of the Chief Security officer to the President. There are ludicrous amounts budgeted for feeding animals, entertainment etc. Most Nigerians are still waiting for the change that was promised and perhaps the reason it hasn’t come is that the nation is still squandering much of its wealth with frivolous budgeting of scarce resources and ineffective planning. The truth of the matter is that the Executive and Legislature are eating the nation into mass poverty. Once again the National Assembly will get a massive allocation (N125 Billion) without a breakdown of what the money is to be used for. There is also a provision for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to construct or complete detention centers in Gombe State (N2billion), Port Harcourt (N3.1 billion) and Maiduguri (N2.6 billion).
Tragically government plans to spend far more on detention facilities than factories or schools! As usual there is no reason to believe that the 2019 Appropriation Act will be followed to the letter. The benchmark oil price is overestimated, and the total amount to be borrowed cannot be sourced. The real problem is that budgeting has become a superficial exercise in which officials simply cut and paste previous budgets and make minor adjustments in the details. Nothing else can explain the needless repetition of items every year. The budgetary allocation to the Presidency must be reduced to reflect the “Pain” which the PMB claims to feel for the long suffering masses. There is a recurring decimal of frivolities and questionable inputs in the budget for the Presidency, perhaps this is why the Senate President used the words “hopeless and deceptive”.